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Father Albert Lacombe (28 February 1827 - 12 December 1916), commonly known in Alberta simply as Father Lacombe, was a French-Canadian Roman Catholic missionary who lived among and evangelized the Cree and also visited the Blackfoot First Nations of northwestern Canada. He is now remembered for having brokered a peace between the Cree and Blackfoot, negotiating construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway through Blackfoot territory, and securing a promise from the Blackfoot leader Crowfoot to refrain from joining the North-West Rebellion of 1885.

First Impressions of Calgary, September 1889

by Henry George

Photograph | View of Calgary, AB, 1889 | MP-0000.325.1
Calgary, 1889

We were more or less prepared for Calgary from what we had seen of the towns along the CPR we had passed on our journey westward. We reached Calgary in the small hours of the morning and of course it was too dark to see much except that the station was a small wooden building and there were no porters in uniform as we were used to seeing in England — only a station agent and the train crew. The NWMP were always on duty to search the trains for liquor as they came in. It was prohibition and no one could have liquor without a special permit.

When I saw the town in daylight, I was struck with the wooden houses and raised wooden sidewalks, the number of saddle horses with the lines thrown over their heads and trailing on the ground. [And there were] the cowboys, with their big felt hats, coloured handkerchiefs and chaps and belts with revolvers. These they were allowed to carry if they were exposed and not hidden.

The Royal Hotel was the largest at that time. The Alberta was building; the Queen's was quite a little place. St. Mary's Cathedral towers were building and there was a long stretch of prairie between it and the railway.

Cowboys would ride into town and race up and down Steven Avenue and a man would mount his horse to ride 100 yards up the street. Though it was prohibition time there were nineteen bars. People would get permits and hand them over to barkeepers so if the police came around they would have enough to cover their stock of liquor.

The old stage coach ran a couple of times a week from Calgary to Edmonton, also one to McLeod. There were no waterworks but telephones and electricity were installed. There was no hospital except the one at the NWMP Barracks and it was only for police and prisoners. The first hospital was being built at Medicine Hat, Doctors Oliver and Calder being in charge. They were doctors to the CPR. Dr. Lindsay and I have the next division to them, our pass running from Medicine Hat to Donald. Dr. Lafferty and Dr. Rouleau were also practicing in Calgary and Dr. Aylen was the Police Doctor at the barracks.

There were two town policemen — Dillabough and Barber. The NWMP did no town duty unless they were specifically called.

Taken from "First Impressions of Calgary" September 1889 by Henry George, an addendum to Memoirs of a Pioneer Mother written in 1924 by Barbara Mary George and excerpted here with permission from the family.